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Subject: Fwd: [iaem-list] The Asia Tsunami and Hazard-Specific WarningSystems

[TC Members -  Just summarizing a thought on this... - Art]

>Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2004 23:33:43 -0800
>To: International Association of Emergency Managers list <iaem-list@iaem.com>
>From: Art Botterell <acb@incident.com>
>Subject: [iaem-list] The Asia Tsunami and Hazard-Specific Warning Systems
>IAEM Discussion Group:
>Friends -
>I know many of us are focused on the humanitarian relief effort in 
>the Indian Ocean Basin... and I certainly don't want to divert 
>attention from those crucial tactical activities... but on a more 
>strategic level, I wonder whether the current global media attention 
>to the lack of tsunami warning there might be missing the point just 
>a bit.
>The conventional story-line seems to be that people died 
>unnecessarily because there was no tsunami warning system in the 
>area affected by Sunday's events.  While that much seems certain, it 
>occurs to me that there must have been a wide variety of other 
>warning capabilities in place around the region... weather warning 
>systems, fire alarms, radio systems, PA systems, community alarm 
>bells, community word-of-mouth and so on.
>So is it possible that the real problem isn't that there wasn't a 
>dedicated tsunami warning system, but rather that the existing 
>public warning capabilities had become "stovepiped" so they could 
>only be used by particular agencies for particular hazards... so 
>that when an exceptional situation arose, there was simply no way to 
>take advantage of those existing assets?
>Building and maintaining single-purpose warning systems is both 
>inefficient and inflexible.  But to the extent that public warning 
>is perceived as a subsidiary activity of hazard-specific disciplines 
>(fire, military, health, etc.) instead of as a comprehensive 
>all-hazard societal function, it seems that the over-specialization 
>of warning systems will be a natural, if unintended, consequence.
>So maybe, instead of yielding to the knee-jerk impulse to build 
>another stovepipe system specifically for tsunamis, the global 
>emergency management community ought to be channeling investment 
>toward an integrated, all-hazard approach to public warning.  We 
>have the necessary technologies, including the OASIS Common Alerting 
>Protocol as a global open standard for interconnecting warning 
>systems.  What seems to be lacking is clear guidance to policymakers 
>as to how the limited resources available can be leveraged more 
>(Two disclaimers: first off, I'm not saying that there shouldn't be 
>investment in tsunami detection and analysis: only that in this case 
>we had the information and still weren't able to use it effectively. 
>And second, I'm most emphatically NOT calling for a single 
>magic-bullet warning technology... we all know there's no such 
>thing, for both technical and sociological reasons.  What I'm 
>talking about is an all-hazards approach to using all our full, 
>marvelous array of available warning methods, both high-tech and 
>low-, in a coordinated and effective way.)
>Just a thought...
>- Art
>Art Botterell
>Emergency Information Systems Consultant
>phone 707 750-1006
>fax 877 546-6890
>email acb@incident.com

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